September 30, 2014

Directory of Best Hindi Blogs: announcing 2013-14 edition

We are happy to present before you the third edition of the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs. It has 212 blogs selected for their overall quality: quality of content, regularity, design, use of blogging for self-expression or sharing knowledge in a field, and use of language. 

Blogs have been arranged according to Roman alphabets (because arranging them according to Hindi alphabets creates confusion).

As we have indicated before, our assessment is based on 'overall' quality. So, you will find a few blogs with outstanding content but with not much concern for engagement. Blogs with great design but not so good navigation support. Blogs with good content and a lot of engagement but somewhat mediocre design...

Though we strongly denounce use of others' pictures without permission and without attribution, we have ignored this when the blogger has used low-quality generic pics to support the text, e.g. to buttress thoughts of the accompanying poem. Similarly, while we hate wrong use of matras and punctuation, we have ignored it when we found a blog excelling in many other parameters. Gaudy backgrounds and flashy text make a blog look childish but we have ignored that in a few cases, considering the commitment to blogging and contributing to blog-engagement.

Just to repeat our commitment to ethical blogging, we assure you that in selecting the best blogs, we have applied no other consideration than quality of the blog and its contribution to blogging. Suggestions to improve the Directory further in future are always welcome. 

At this link, you can have a glimpse of Hindi blogosphere in our previous post.

We will soon come out with a list of good blog aggregators, web-magazines etc. 


हिन्दी के सर्वश्रेष्ठ ब्लॉगों की डाइरैक्टरी  का तीसरा यानि  2013-2014 संस्करण अब आपके सामने है. इसमें  212 ब्लॉग हैं. इन्हें इंग्लिश की वर्णाक्षरी के क्रम में दिया गया है.

पिछले संस्करण की तरह इस बार भी डाइरैक्टरी  में हिन्दी के सर्वश्रेष्ठ ब्लॉग सम्मिलित हैं. हम आपको भरोसा दिलाते हैं कि हम ऊँचे नैतिक मूल्यों के प्रति प्रतिबद्ध हैं और ब्लॉगों को चुनने में हमने केवल गुणवत्ता की परख की है. इस डायरेक्टरी में आपको कुछ ऐसे ब्लॉग मिल सकते हैं जो किसी एक मापदंड पर कुछ कमकर लग सकते हैं लेकिन जब आप उन ब्लॉगों के अन्य गुणों को परखेंगे तो पाएंगे कि कई अन्य मामलों में  उनका स्तर बहुत ऊंचा है.

हिन्दी ब्लॉग संसार में क्याहै, इस पर हमारा लेख आप यहाँ पढ़ सकते हैं.

हम शीघ्र ही ब्लॉग समूहक आदि की लिस्ट आपके सम्मुख प्रस्तुत करेंगे.

September 28, 2014

Hindi blogosphere / हिंदी ब्लॉग-संसार

This is extract of our last post, rendered in Hindi, about what we saw in the Hindi blogosphere during compilation of the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

मित्रो,

हिंदी के सर्वश्रेष्ठ ब्लॉगों की डायरेक्टरी का 2013-14 संस्करण हम 30 सितम्बर को प्रकाशित करने जा रहे हैं.
इस दौरान हमने हिंदी ब्लॉग-संसार में जो गतिविधियाँ देखीं, इस पोस्ट में लिख छोड़ी हैं. कुछ मुख्य बातें संक्षेप में हिंदी में यहाँ दे रहे हैं.

पहली बात तो यह कि हिंदी ब्लॉगोस्फेयर में बहुत कुछ बदला नहीं है. पुराने झगड़े... बहुत आत्म-प्रशंसा...कुछ ही ब्लॉगरों का सक्रिय रहना... कुछ का ही एक-दूसरे के ब्लॉगों पर टिप्पणियाँ करना... वैरायटी की कमी...

कुछ बदला है बुरे के लिए. कुछ प्रतिष्ठित ब्लॉग या तो बहुत सुस्त हो गए हैं या फिर सो गए हैं. कम से कम दो ब्लॉग-एग्रीगेटर भी बंद हो गए हैं.

लेकिन कुछ अच्छे नए ब्लॉगों का आगमन भी हुआ है. मात्राओं की गलतियाँ कम होने लगी हैं... ब्लॉगर नई  तकनीकों को अपना रहे हैं... सोशल मीडिया के अकाउंटों का एकीकरण भी होने लगा है... रंगों का बचकाना और फूहड़ प्रयोग कम हो रहा है... ब्लॉग सीरियस संवाद का फेसबुक और ट्विटर से अच्छा माध्यम सिद्ध हो रहे हैं...

सब मिलाकर, हिंदी ब्लॉग-संसार जीवंत है. इसे नए जोश की ज़रूरत है, आशा है कि नए ब्लॉगर इस ज़रूरत को ज़ल्दी ही पूरा करेंगे.

September 26, 2014

Hindi blogosphere: what is happening here?

We have completed three rounds of surfing the Hindi blogosphere for discovering the best blogs there, and have observed a few notable trends. Before that, let’s briefly recall what we’d found during our earlier blogosphere surveys while compiling the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs.

Many things have remained the same over the years...

Our detailed observations two year back still hold good and these can be seen here: part I ... part II


As we observed last year and before, Hindi bloggers still tend to be full of energy, commitment to their blogs and a feeling of community. Hindi blogs still are what they have been: leaning towards literature, nostalgia and religion… promoting one another… quarreling over issues and non-issues… preaching… And the blogosphere is dominated by only a few blogs. There are many blog aggregators.

But when it comes to the 'look and feel' of the blog, the taste of a few otherwise good bloggers looks extremely unrefined. When you compare the design and overall looks of other blogs and these ones, you find the same difference as you see between an advertisement by Unilever (e.g. Lux, Surf) and that by a local vendor in a village fair. 

Please don’t misunderstand us. We are not saying that Indian folk / rural taste is inferior to the modern urban taste. What we are emphasizing is that some prominent Hindi bloggers ignore the design elements so much that they look too gaudy, childish, even vulgar. The following link illustrates our point: common design issues in Hindi blogs

Making money out of blogs is not seen at all: partly because the basic purpose of an Indian blogger is to communicate and partly because at this juncture Hindi blog readers are not expected to be exploring / buying things online in a big way. 

Some things have changed for the worse...

Let’s share what new we have observed this time.

There appears a palpable sense of frustration among a large number of bloggers. Bloggers (mostly young techies) who open blogs with the sole purpose of monetizing keep losing interest as there is not much money here. However, what is a bad omen is that many erstwhile trail-blazers have either become dormant or have stopped blogging. 

Is Facebook to blame for this? Perhaps not. You can blame Facebook for people not coming to blogging in as big numbers as they were coming earlier, but not for serious and established bloggers losing interest. Part of this could be growing groupism and quarrel among Hindi bloggers. The tendency to prove superior by showing a bigger and more committed readership than others could be marring healthy blogging in Hindi. This internecine feud is accentuated by the fact that most blogging in Hindi is in literary and social-political arena, and not in scientific and technical fields, finance and economy, hobbies, commerce etc. So, instead of devoting time on creative hobbies, social cause and professions, bloggers tend to be obsessive about their little turfs.

In the last one year or so, two major aggregators have also gone dead.

Tiredness has set in too early among pioneering blogs, and that feels sad.

But some for the better too...


This does not mean, good blogging is not happening in Hindi or the total number of bloggers is going down. Some good bloggers stay on – as you will find when the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs comes out at the end of this month – and a good number of new bloggers join the blogosphere. 

It is now easier to write Hindi in Devnagri script, many new features have come up on Blogger and Wordpress platforms, and it is possible to integrate all social media accounts (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc). Some bloggers are making good use of such new developments. Some blogs that we didn't include in the Directory last year due to numerous matra issues have improved a lot. Some blogs have matured and are much more professionally maintained. Some bloggers who were wasting their energy in berating others have started concentrating on their writing. Though huge tag lists and blogrolls still appear on blogs, these are less common. Irritating self promotion also has come down. A few blogs have grown so big, they have become full-blown websites and even blog magazines. We are yet to see the type of maturity here that is seen among English blogs, but Hindi blogsosphere is getting richer by the day: richer in content, features, variety. We hope and wish, it grows faster in the years to come.

September 24, 2014

adityagangadharan

wildlife-blogPoochaandi


"On this blog, I talk about my experience as a wildlife biologist, working in the Western Ghats of India. See unique camera trap photos of leopards and tigers from deep in the forest; hear about the ghostly experiences and mythical animals of the tea estates; learn about the lives of the tribal people who live alongside endangered wildlife; and relive the experience of being charged by and elephant."
- Aditya 

September 21, 2014

How blogging scores over social networking

Blogs show passion while social networks boost their own revenue!

Did it ever come to your mind that blogs are much more independent than your accounts / pages on Facebook and Twitter? Read on...

When you post something on your blog, it is there till you take it down or hide it. If a good number of people comment on it and share it on their blogs / sites, that post is also likely to come high on search pages when people search that type of content on Google etc. On the other hand, social network sites play with the content and upgrade or downgrade it based on its commercial value. For example, on your Facebook newsfeed, you will find that all your friends' streams are not shown. On the other hand, you might find an advertisement as if you had followed that and wanted it to show up on the newsfeed. The new technology allows the big daddies of social media to push their advertisements based on what you searched or browsed recently. 

And you can put on your blog all that you want, but do Facebook and Twitter allow that?

Social network sites have full control over the content. They may put filters on certain type of content that may in fact be fully appropriate in your type of discussion. And they won't be apologetic about it.

As of now, the biggest free blogging platform, Blogger, allows you to monetise your blog. On the other hand, social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter don't. If you have a self-hosted blog, you have even more options to post whatever you like, allow whatever type of comments and put advertisements the way you want them to be.

Oh, we forgot to tell the obvious! While you can decorate your blog the way you want, social network sites won't allow you that except for a very basic tweak here and there. Creativity and good taste for decor and design do not get you marks on these networks.

In addition, on Facebook and Twitter, everything is transitional; on blogs everything is permanent. A Facebook / Twitter account (or page) is like a house on quicksand: the house sinks a few inches every day and you need to build at least that much to keep it above the ground. A blog is a strong house on a firm base where you keep adding inches to it to make it a sky-scraper one day. 

Agree? Keep blogging!

September 18, 2014

Social media and people's hesitation to speak out

Social media suppresses debate, believe it!

A recent survey by Pew Research Center finds that people tend to keep quiet and hesitate in discussing controversial topics. It goes against the conventional wisdom that people tend to say things on social media what they’d not say in real life.

Out of about 1800 U.S. adults interviewed in the survey, 86% were comfortable with discussing government’s surveillance programme in public places, workplaces etc., but only 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were willing to talk about it online.

ITB’s own observation has been that when on Facebook and blogs, most people  discuss controversial subjects only within their own group of friends and sober down their opinions to suit that of the group. Even when a highly controversial topic starts trending, a good number of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ usually do not support the controversial stand but it is only a small number of committed guys who keep the controversy alive.

The trend to keep sober and quiet might be because most of us do not want to offend others or be seen controversial. We seem to feel that a controversial stand makes us unpopular, especially when others are behaving soberly. 

Another, and quite a big, reason could be the fear of being caught on the wrong foot. Government officials are not likely to criticise official policies, all employees would hesitate in talking about their employers, children would not say things that their parents might find out and would not approve of... So, many things that are being talked about, some being hotly debated, are either not discussed at all or are discussed mildly on the social media.

Why, then, do we find instant and viral social buzz around controversial topics? We have one (and there could be many more) quick explanation with this illustration: Roadside tea shops in India are known to generate a lot of political discussion, especially in Kerala and Bengal. People debate, argue, fight and shout over their pet themes but all this dies down when people leave the tea shop. On social media, the debate may lose steam but it remains there and can be searched, hyperlinked, re-published and talked about any number of times. Perhaps this curation, easy availability and visibility creates new waves of popularity when old waves of recede. This, perhaps, leads to a huge and constant-looking wave and makes us think that people who are otherwise shy of discussing politics and controversial topics are more vocal on social media.

September 16, 2014

Blog find: HumansofNewYork

We thank Hindustan Times for this find. HumansofNewYork is the blog we are talking about.

Brandon photo blog on NewYorkersBrandon, the photo enthusiast behind this blog, was in Delhi last week as part of a UN-facilitated world tour. He posted a Facebook post that he would be available at the city’s heart, Connaught Place. And believe it, about a thousand strong crowd gathered there. With people jostling to talk to him, touch him and get photographed, what a scene it was!

Brandon says, four years back he ‘started out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map’ but was soon putting meaningful captions besides understated photos. Then his reach widened both in terms of subjects and visitors. Today, the blog and connected social media accounts have over 8 million followers! Brandon has also made his collection into a book, which has been a New York Times bestseller.

If you want to see how a great synergy works between a fine picture and its brilliant caption, do visit this blog.

September 13, 2014

Blogger features you should not miss out

In the previous post (first in this multi-part series), we listed some basic features of the Blogger platform. In the present post, we'd talk about some features that help you do routine things better. 

Missed the overview?

Don't forget to occasionally look at the 'Overview' menu. It is minefield of information in one screen. It shows your posts, comments, pageviews, followers and an overview of traffic coming to your blog from different sources. 
blogger-menus
menus in Blogger

Go down the fold and you have links to Google's own articles about making the best out of Blogger. 

The 'Title' and 'Description' tags

Blogs need to have a good title - a title that describes the soul of the blog (or the blogger) in a few words, like title of an essay or name of a colony. SEO experts advise that title should not be longer than 70 characters.

Description should contain a phrase, a clause or one or two sentences about the blog. If you want, you can use a pithy proverb or a quote as description, to support the title. 

You can change the title and description any number of times, but it is not advisable. 

For adding / changing these tags, go to 'Settings' menu and then to 'Basic' sub-menu.

How to check which posts have a particular label?

You can see all posts with a particular label by using the 'Labels' widget (If you are not sure of using labels or widgets, wait for our next post in this series) or by typing out this URL in the address bar of your browser: <your blog's url>search/label/<the label you want to search> e.g. http://www.indiantopblogs.com/search/label/social-media-discussions  

But what we are talking about is more than this. You can see the list of posts according to labels, so that you can review labels and make amends if you so want. For this, you need to go to 'Posts' menu. There is an 'All labels' button in the top right of the screen. When you click on it, you will see the list of all labels arranged alphabetically and the corresponding posts.

Blogger pages for standalone articles or lists

If you have not tried 'Pages' in Blogger, you have missed a big facility for having standalone pages on your blog. 

'Pages' in Blogger differ from blog posts in that these do not stand in the queue of posts where older posts are pushed down as newer ones come up. You can use pages for standalone articles, e.g. for 'About us', 'FAQs about the blog', background information about the subject of the blog, glossary of terms, manually prepared listing of honours received, etc.

You can display pages manually by hyperlinking their URLs or through the 'Pages' widget. Blogger's 'Pages' widget allows different ways of displaying pages on the blog.

As of now, you can have only 10 pages per blog. 

Same blog, many views

Last year, Blogger introduced what it calls 'Dynamic views'. It gives you the option to show your blog in a number of ways if viewers want that. You can yourself fix one of these views as the default view. 

The advantage of 'dynamic views' is that you can customise the look and feel of your blog according to your taste and suiting your blog's overall personality. For example, you can use 'flipcard' view to show photos in collage style - this suits a photo blog or blog with many images; you can go for a very simple and sober 'sidebar' view if your blog has a lot of serious reading material. 

We initially had many reservations about dynamic views, but over the years Blogger has addressed some of our concerns. Still, it is advisable to apply dynamic views to the blog after lots of consideration. You can, of course, revert to a non-dynamic view if you don't like the dynamic view feature.  


September 10, 2014

Indian blogosphere survey

IndiBlogger recently brought out its State of the Indian Blogosphere survey. According to the inferences drawn by this blog promotion site and its survey partners, 
  • Bloggers are the source of the majority [sic]* of the content available on the internet [sic] today.
  • In India, blogs are the fastest-growing web medium.
  • Bloggers [sic] are supposed to be credible sources of information.... to potential customers.
  • The most blogged about topics are: food & drinks, travel, movies, tech news and gadgets, personal care, books, fashion, political news and health.
  • Indian blogs score over global peers in use of videos, monetisation and influence in purchasing while they lag behind in use of images.
  • 56% of Indian blogs influence buying decisions of visitors.
  • Among affiliates, Amazon and Flipkart are the most used, Amazon scoring by a big margin.
  • 86% Indian bloggers monetise their blogs and 22% use blog to further their profession. 45% of Indian blogs are being approached by brand or agencies.
  • 63% of blogs in India are on Blogger platform, 14% on Wordpress, and 23% are hosted on paid servers.
  • Indian blogs get their traffic almost equally from search engines, followers, and family and friends.
  • 20% Indian blogs are on poetry and short stories.
* [sic] is used to indicate that the preceding word is of the original author and has been quoted without editing. So, in the present case, we have used [sic] to indicate that the word before it is that of IndiBlogger and ITB does not fully agree with that expression.


Some of these and other (which we have not carried) findings and observations of theirs are at variance with our own surveys and also our experience while browsing the Indian blogosphere during compilation of blog directories. We must admit here that ITB's surveys have been based on our own tracking of blog properties and our impressions and are not structured surveys. Part of the variance could be because their survey too is based primarily on bloggers who promote their blogs on IndiBlogger.

Arguably IndiBlogger's is a big survey. It says: "We collated 1,059 respondents [sic] to a questionnaire, 318,059 posts on IndiVine and 35,464 authenticated blogs on IndiBlogger." 

The survey findings have been used with permission from IndiBlogger.
Indian Top Blogs has carried a number of posts on Indian blogosphere. The most detailed ones can be seen here: 1.Trends in the Indian blogging scene  2.Where do Indian bloggers stand?

September 8, 2014

colors

colors
http://colors.pw
Pinjil-colors-blog


A fashion and beauty blog by Pinjil, a colourful polka-dot lover girl. It is 'for inspiring and innovating personal style and showcasing new ideas that pop in her head,' she says.

September 5, 2014

Blogger's great features

Long ago, we ran a series on the less known but useful features of Blogger, one of the most popular blogging platforms. In the meantime, Blogger has changed a lot. We find that many blogger friends on this platform have not explored all the features of this excellent blogging platform or have not kept pace with its upgrades. So this post.

Before focusing on some superb features, two things:

One, do not blindly apply all types of features only because they look fancy. Use them after analysing their value to your blog and ensuring that these won't hurt your blog's design, navigation, readability and reputation. For example, fancy fonts do not go well with a serious blog.

Two, before coming to special features (which we'd discuss in subsequent posts), let's list some basic features for the sake of new bloggers or those who have not explored these since opening the blog years ago.

  • Blogger is maintained by Google, and the blogger account is automatically connected to all your other web properties within Google family, such as Picasa, Google Plus and G Mail.
  • All Google accounts are connected with a single profile, that is Google Plus. What it means is that when any of your Google accounts is associated with your web identity (e.g. when you comment on others' blogs with your Google account), your identity is hyperlinked to your Google Plus profile (e.g. you can click here to know IndianTopBlogs' identity.)
  • You can open a large number of blogs with a single Blogger account. All blogs' URLs, by default, have the following suffix: .blogspot.com
  • These blogs can assume country suffix in those countries where Google has a server. So, abcdefghi.blogspot.com might take you to abcdefghi.blogspot.in in India.
  • When you create one or more blogs, all these blogs are visible through a dashboard. When you click on a particular blog's name, you are taken to that blog's dashboard. Here, you have a column on the left side with menus for different actions.
  • Blogger is a very versatile platform and it keeps adding new features now and then. Its 'settings' menu is really fantastic: It allows you to change the title of the blog, describe it in detail, give writing permission to other people, make the blog invisible to people except a select group, link the blog to another URL, decide how many posts can be seen on a screen, display comments in different ways, and what not.
  • A blog's look and feel can be changed in numerous ways through 'Layout' and 'Template' menus. 'Layout' is for placement of different elements such as posts, widgets and different sections in the blog. It lets you add a large number of widgets on the blog, including third-party codes. You can add a favicon to the blog's title and a menu bar under the title.
  • 'Template' allows resizing of the blog itself and its columns; colouring text, links and different areas of the blog; putting a background etc. An html editor is also available here, which allows detailed editing of the blog's features; but this is for advanced users who have knowledge of .html. Common bloggers should not use this feature. If you are keen to try it out, do so after taking a backup of the blog so that if something goes wrong, backup can be used to restore the blog.
  • Blogger publishes posts as individual .html pages. Each of these can contains text, images, audio and audio-visual content. Posts are automatically given URL in this fashion: <blog name> / <year> / <month> / <post name> .html   (e.g. http://www.abcdefghij.com/2014/08/blog-features.html
  • You can have a large number of posts in a blog. 
  • Blogger also allows upto ten standalone pages with a different type of URL pattern: <blog name>/ p / <page name>.html e.g. http://www.indiantopblogs.com/p/the-directory-of-best-indian-blogs.html
  • All posts and pages can be edited in the post editor the way you edit a document in a text processor like Word. (Go to 'posts' and then 'edit' a post. The post editor will open. Click on 'Compose' if it is not clicked by default.)
  • You can also edit the .html of the post in the text editor itself (Click on 'HTML' instead of 'Compose'.) to add features that are not possible through the rich text editing. 
  • You can schedule posts for publishing them at a later date and time.
  • You can even change the URL of the post, though only the <post name> part.
  • You can monetise the blog (=make money from the blog) through Google's own AdSense or by adding advertisements from others.
  • You can also analyse the blog's popularity, who is linking to it, who is sending traffic to the blog and so on using Blogger's inbuilt features. You can put Google Analytics to further analyse the blog's performance. 
  • Blogger also allows importing an existing blog to a Blogger blog; exporting the Blogger blog elsewhere; and back up of the blog.

The list of what all is available on this excellent free platform is exhaustive. We'll stop here and would soon come with detailed advice about some great features that bloggers often ignore.